The pandemic has been difficult for everyone, to say the least! But if there is a silver lining to its impact on education, it’s the lessons we’ve learned about the importance of social and emotional learning (SEL).
Student and educators have tapped into social-emotional skills in many different ways during the pandemic. These skills have helped us work through problems, manage our emotions, and view obstacles as opportunities for growth.
Here are three examples of SEL practices that we should continue to prioritize beyond the pandemic.
1. Help students and teachers build confidence.
“I can’t do this!” has been a frequent statement made by students and educators alike during the pandemic. Many felt (and may continue to feel) overwhelmed, frustrated, and unable to perform the tasks asked of them. Confidence and self-efficacy are essential skills needed to work through these feelings and rise to the challenges before us.
For example, when teaching remotely, educators need to have confidence in their abilities to pivot instruction and instructional methods. Believing in themselves — and knowing when and how to ask for help — are the first steps for creating and executing a plan to keep students learning remotely.
For students, self-confidence is crucial because it helps them understand they have the ability to learn and succeed. They need to believe in themselves and know how to advocate for themselves when they need help. This includes finding a way to let teachers know when they are struggling with a concept or assignment, and asking for help if they don’t have internet/computer access or are having problems at home.
Continuing the practice: Research shows that believing in oneself and one’s abilities actually helps desired outcomes come to fruition. We should continue to help educators and students build their confidence so they are able to succeed.
2. Prioritize stress management and self-care.
How many of us felt high levels of stress during the pandemic and remote learning? Unfortunately, even in normal times, we don’t place enough emphasis on self-care. But stressful situations can arise at any time, and the pandemic highlighted why it’s important to continually work on improving our stress management skills so we are able to keep emotions in check during stressful times.
Continuing the practice: We should continue to help students learn stress management skills on a continual basis. We should also make self-care a priority for ourselves. Educators and students will be happier, healthier, and better equipped to deal with stressful situations that arise in the future.
3. Develop strong relationship skills.
By nature, remote learning requires students and teachers to be physically separated from one another. For many during the pandemic and remote learning, it became instantly apparent how much easier it is to provide both academic help and emotional support when students are in the same room as their educators.
Remote learning has challenged teachers to find ways to build and maintain connections with students via email, Google Classroom, and Zoom meetings. It requires educators to get creative with how they monitor and check in with students, and they have to rely on their own connections with peers, friends, and family for support.
Students face the challenge of having to know how to ask for help when they can’t simply raise their hand in class or signal an emotional problem with a look. They have to find ways to alert their teacher when they don’t understand the material, have trouble accessing internet or technology, or just need to talk through a personal issue.
Continuing the practice: The pandemic made it clear that strong teacher-student connections are vital to students’ success. We must continue to help both students and teachers develop strong relationship skills.
These are just three SEL practices that help students and adults work through tough times. Strong social-emotional skills are needed to live healthy, productive lives, and they will serve us well beyond the pandemic. Let’s continue to prioritize building these skills!
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